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  1. #1
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    Help me upgrade from SRAM Levels

    I ride a 2017 al tallboy 3 which came with pretty basic parts all around. I've already upgraded to a Fox Transfer seat post which was the best $300 ever spent.
    Also have upgraded the front fork to a Fox Factory 34 which I honestly don't feel was completely worth the $700 over the stock RockShox Recon. I'm pretty sure this is because I've only been riding 6 months and still don't have the feel for the subtleties nor am I really pushing the bike to it's limits that this fork would really shine.

    So with that, I am feeling that my stock brakes just don't cut it. I'm riding some longer, steeper chunkier downhill where I tend to ride the brakes quite a bit and I'm experiencing a lot of fade and arm pump from having to pull the lever so hard.

    As a slightly heavier guy @ 200lbs with gear I think I would benefit from quad piston brakes.

    Main feature I'm looking for is lot's of power without having to pull so damn hard.

    Some brake sets I'm considering are:
    Shimano ZEE BR-M640 $120
    Shimano XTR BR-M9020 trail $152
    SRAM Guide RS $154

    I'd like to keep the price in this range unless there is some real compelling reason to go higher. Weight and fine tuning reach etc aren't important to me.

    Also, would I need to replace my rotors when switching calipers? would I benefit from upping the front rotor to 203 mm from 180 mm?

  2. #2
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    SLX with your 180 should be great. Way cheaper too.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by shannons View Post
    SLX with your 180 should be great. Way cheaper too.
    Are those really going to have more power over the SRAM Levels? I don't see that they are quad piston.

  4. #4
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    I have sram level t brakes on my 17 Bronson. I dislike them. They have stopping power but pads don't last long and the lever has a weird feel. It almost feels like the levers bend when I really need to stop the bike. I too am a heavier rider (I <3 beer).

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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by infotekt View Post
    Are those really going to have more power over the SRAM Levels? I don't see that they are quad piston.
    The chances of you needing a 4 pot brake on a tallboy are slim, but if you want them and have money to burn go shimano. The SLX's will do you just fine. I guarantee you'll do a lot less dicking with them. There is a magic koolaid you can drink though, somehow makes the sram problems disappear.

  6. #6
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    Get the Zees, no question. There is no such thing as too much power, I run Zees on a Kona Explosif and think it's a perfectly reasonable setup even though I only weigh 150 lbs. I had SLX brakes on the bike at one point and thought they were barely adequate, when I upgraded to Zees I was like "yup, that's what I'm looking for!" As a bonus, the brake pads last a long time since they're huge compared to the XTR or Guide pads and they don't get worked as hard.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by aerius View Post
    Get the Zees, no question. There is no such thing as too much power, I run Zees on a Kona Explosif and think it's a perfectly reasonable setup even though I only weigh 150 lbs. I had SLX brakes on the bike at one point and thought they were barely adequate, when I upgraded to Zees I was like "yup, that's what I'm looking for!" As a bonus, the brake pads last a long time since they're huge compared to the XTR or Guide pads and they don't get worked as hard.
    Thanks for the input. What rotors are you using? Can I keep using my 180mm SRAM centerline rotors with the ZEES?

  8. #8
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    Technically the sram rotors will work with the shimano brakes. Shimano uses a slightly narrower brake track on their rotors, so having a wider rotor is not a problem. That said, the shimano ice tech rotors are excellent and worth the money.

    I would also recommend the zee out of the ones you are considering. The xtr trail are not 4 piston. There is a brand new version of xt 4 piston brakes just released. I dont know if they are available in the US yet.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by infotekt View Post
    I tend to ride the brakes quite a bit and I'm experiencing a lot of fade and arm pump from having to pull the lever so hard.

    would I benefit from upping the front rotor to 203 mm from 180 mm?

    The biggest bang for your buck would come from upgrading your existing rotors to 203/180. Fancy new brakes with small rotors will lead you to disappointment.

    But more important than all the new parts you can throw at your bike, learn to ride in a way that you're not riding the brakes as much.

  10. #10
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    If interested in Guide RS, I have a brand new set for sale that have never been out of the box. They came on a new bike purchase but I transferred over a different set of brakes. PM me if interested.

    Zees/Saints (basically the same) are excellent, but factor in another $100 total for new rotors.
    And, yes, upping your front rotor size to 203 will certainly help

  11. #11
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    You may want to stick with Sram brakes so you keep you cockpit the same. With Shimano you'll be adding another bar clamp and have to re position your shifter etc.
    Sometimes you eat the trail, sometimes the trail eats you.

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Widgeontrail View Post
    You may want to stick with Sram brakes so you keep you cockpit the same. With Shimano you'll be adding another bar clamp and have to re position your shifter etc.
    Lol that's fancy. I don't have matchmaker mounts.

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by drwx View Post
    Lol that's fancy. I don't have matchmaker mounts.

    Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk
    That's surprising. Your Sram brakes and shifter have separate clamps?
    Sometimes you eat the trail, sometimes the trail eats you.

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  14. #14
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    Level t brakes aren't compatible with matchmaker.

    Also I use Shimano shifters, but even if I used sram, no go. Found that out when I went to buy my wolftooth remote for my dropper. I had to get the one with the clamp as apposed to matchmaker.

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  15. #15
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    So, I crashed and broke the front lever today and now I really do need to decide on something.

    I can't find replacement parts to just fix this for now either. There is a replacement blade for the Level TL's available but It doesn't look like it will work. Too bad as it's only $14.

    Yep the base Level brakes that came with my Tallboy don't have the shared mounts and I would need a new Wolf Tooth remote and and new GX shifter to be able to clean up the bars.

  16. #16
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    My vote: zee or xt, regardless Shimano. I have both and like both, easy to service and not much thought to them once set up.
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  17. #17
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    Moving to an 8" front rotor is part of outfitting a bike if you're 200lbs and have proper hills. If you haven't done that the rest of the conversation is babble. Next are sintered pads, which unlike rotors have a downside- they're kinda wooden when they're cold.

    Now we're looking at a brake upgrade, and zee is easily the most powerful in that group. They might get lambasted as grabby by Little People, but that doesn't matter when you're 200lbs. The other options pale in comparison, and i'm not bored enough to type it out.


    Get an 8" front rotor. Upsize the rear rotor if you need to to balance the braking. Get Zee. Move to sintered pads if necessary. Easy.
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  18. #18
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    Update: Bought some new bike take off Guide RSC's from pinkbike.

    Test ride up and down the street and the front brake has a lot more power than the Level's with the same 180mm rotors. I'm going to have to be careful of going over the bars as I'm already pretty good at that.

    Can't wait to see how they perform on a sustained chunky descent and if I have less arm fatigue.

  19. #19
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    I've the Guides too and like them but they were too weak with the original 180/170 rotors.

    Out of curiosity - why do you buy a bike with cheap components just to start upgrading them right away? The 1000$ already spent on individual upgrades would have enabled you to buy a much better specced bike in the first place

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steel Calf View Post
    I've the Guides too and like them but they were too weak with the original 180/170 rotors.

    Out of curiosity - why do you buy a bike with cheap components just to start upgrading them right away? The 1000$ already spent on individual upgrades would have enabled you to buy a much better specced bike in the first place
    That wasn't the plan.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by infotekt View Post
    That wasn't the plan.
    Because wife approval is easier to get in smaller chunks even if it adds up to a higher overall total...amiright?

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